Is Pokemon Unite Just Another Pay-To-Win Cash Grab?

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Yukiko Tanaka

Pokemon Unite is the brand new Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) that just recently went live on Nintendo Switch. This game flew under the radar of many Pokemon fans, but its release has caused quite a stir. 

Many are calling Pokemon Unite Pay-to-Win. This means that some players are able to pay for additional items in a game that gives them some sort of advantage that a Free-to-Play player wouldn’t have. 

Today we are going to look at all of the elements and determine if Pokemon Unite really is Pay-To-Win. And, if the game is still worth playing despite the possibility of paid advantages.

How Much Are Aeos Gem’s Worth?

Pokemon Unite doesn’t allow you to spend real money on any of its items. Instead, you buy a premium currency called Aeos Gems. These gems are only available with real money and can’t be obtained through gameplay. 

Let’s do some math, so we can get an idea of how much a single Aeos Gem is worth.

Aeos Gem Conversion

Aeos Gems Price Gems Per Dollar First Time Bonus
60 (+ 60 for first time purchase) $0.99 60.6 121.2
245 (+ 245 for first time purchase) $3.99 61.4 122.8
490 (+ 490 for first time purchase) $7.99 61.3 122.7
1,220 (+ 1,220 for first time purchase) $19.99 61.0 122.1
2,450 (+ 290 bonus) $39.99 68.5
3,050 (+ 450 bonus) $49.99 70.0
6,000 (+ 1,110 bonus) $99.99 71.0

The best bang for your buck is to buy the tiers with the First Time bonus because you get double the Aeos Gems. You can buy each of those packages one time before you can no longer get the bonus. 

The average Aeos Gems per dollar from all the tiers comes out to about 65 gems. As you will see in this article, if you plan to max out everything, you’ll need a lot of gems. So the $99.00 package would be your best bet at 71 gems per dollar. For future calculations, we will use this tier, but do note the overall totals will fluctuate should you buy other packages. 

Aeos Coins are the standard currency you get for winning battles. It’s important to note, there is a cap of 2100 Aeos coins per week. This is one of the biggest claims for Pokemon Unite being Pay-To-Win. 

You can’t just grind all day every day for coins, because there is a limit you can actually get each week. This means your progression is also gated weekly unless you choose to spend real money. 

While you will get Aeos Coin rewards from leveling up your trainer rank and through events, you only get about 30-50 coins per match battle. You get more coins if you are an MVP, and you get fewer coins if you lose. 

If you won every game and got 40 coins on average per 10 minute match, it would take you about 53 games, 9 hours total, to reach the weekly cap. 

As we take a look further, we will want to see which items are only available with Aeos Gems and how much advantage the purchase can give you. 

What Can You Purchase With Aeos Gems?

  • Pokemon Licenses
  • Holoware
  • Aeos Tickets
  • Battle Pass
  • Energy Tanks

Pokemon Licenses

The first listing under shops is Unite Battle Committee. Here you can purchase Pokemon Licenses that let you permanently acquire Pokemon to fight with. This means you can use them in ranked matches and in standard matches even when they aren’t in the rotation. 

You get a couple of Pokemon Licenses by playing the game thanks to the starter you choose and event rewards. So far, it seems like additional starter pokemon are 345 Aeos Gems, the middle tier is 460, and the final tier is 575. On average, a Pokemon License is about 460 gems or $6.48 each. 

Here is a quick list of all the Pokémon you can currently unlock for free by playing the game. 

  • Pikachu, Eldegoss, Snorlax, Talonflame, OR Charizard
    One Starter at account creation
  • Zeraora
    Free bonus for players who download UNITE before Aug. 31
  • Slowbro
    Reach Trainer Level 2
  • Venusaur
    Reach Trainer Level 5
  • Crustle
    Complete all seven steps of the Beginner Challenge
  • Alolan Ninetails
    Day 2 bonus for the “14 Day Welcome Gifts” event
  • Cinderace
    Day 8 bonus for the “14 Day Welcome Gifts” event
  • Greninja
    Day 14 bonus for the “14 Day Welcome Gifts” event

As of current writing, Pokemon Unite has 21 Licenses available. They have plans to add new Pokemon such as Blastoise soon. You can get up to 8 licenses from the above list. If you were to buy the 13 other Pokemon, it would cost you about 5,980 gems or $84.23.

Thankfully Pokemon Licenses can also be purchased with Aeos Coins. Yet, we do want to keep in mind the 2,100 Aeos Coin weekly limit

That means for a middle-tier Pokemon License of 8,000 coins, it is going to take you at least 4 weeks to grind it out on battle matches alone. That is about 35 hours of winning 200 games in a row.

This is pretty similar to Riot’s League of Legends model (another popular MOBA game). The champions range from about $2 – $10. (Though, they have over 100 champions at this point.)

Generally speaking, this type of monetization model is very standard for this genre. Having more Pokemon Licenses does mean you have greater coverage of roles. This means you can select to better synergize with your team. 

That being said, most people do not consider this as a Pay-To-Win element. You can only play one Pokemon at a time, and all Pokemon are available to buy within the game gained currency.


Holoware are in-game cosmetics that alter the appearance of the Pokemon you are playing. It’s under a different name, but these function the same as skins in other games such as Fortnite and League of Legends. 

Holoware does not make your Pokemon any stronger stats-wise, so these are not considered Pay-To-Win either. For completion sake, Holoware ranges from 350-400 for the common skins and 1050-1200 for uncommon.  

Aeos Tickets

This is the big one. Aeos Tickets by themselves seem harmless, you get 10 tickets per 1 Aeos Gem. Aeos Tickets can be used to buy Fashion items for your trainer, but give no in-game bonus. The issue is that Aeos Tickets can also purchase Item Enhancers

Pokemon Unite has Held Items, which are items that can be purchased before a match begins and gives a bonus to your Pokemon in-game. These Held items can be upgraded with Item Enhancers, which further increases the bonus it gives to your Pokemon during the match.

Free-To-Play players are going to be gated on how quickly they can gain Item Enhancers. That means those that spend real money can buy Aeos Tickets and quickly increase the bonuses the Held Items give. 

To fully upgrade a held item, it would cost you about $36.00 dollars. The game has 16 different held items at current writing, so if you don’t want to drop $575.00 to upgrade them all, you need to decide which ones to rank up first. 

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our Pokemon Unite Held Item Guide. That way you know which Held Items to focus on upgrading first!

Battle Pass

Ever since Fortnite, it seems like every new game has a Battle Pass. A battle pass rewards a player with in-game items just for playing the game or completing challenges. Usually, a battle pass has a Free route and a Paid route. 

If you don’t buy the battle pass, you tend to get fewer and less frequent rewards. If you purchase the battle pass you unlock the ability to earn better rewards faster. 

Most players tend to enjoy the addition of a Battle Pass. It is an enjoyable way to unlock rewards and keeps players returning back to the game to complete daily and weekly challenges. In Pokemon Unite, there are two options for purchasing the Battle Pass. Premium Pass and Premium Pass Plus. 

Premium Pass is 490 Aeos Gems, which is about $6.90. If you were to buy anything in the game, I would recommend this. As long as you continually play the game, there are so many rewards you can get that in turn allow you to buy other items. 

You also get access to season unique fashion items and skins. The Premium Pass Plus is 840 gems, $11.83, and in addition to unlocking the paid route, it gives you a 10 level head start. It is also worth mentioning, that you can buy additional Battle Pass levels, if you want to reach a reward faster.

Simply owning a Premium Pass does not give any kind of advantage. However, some of the rewards do include Item Enhancers, which can be used to upgrade Held Items. These Held Items do give a bonus in a match.

Energy Tanks

Pokemon Unite also has a gacha system, Aeos Energy. A gacha game is basically a loot box, you spend a game gained currency and you get an in-game item. 

You get about 30-60 Aeos Energy from each match if you win. Once you have collected 100 Aeos Energy, you can redeem it for 1 energy reward. Energy Rewards can grant you various items such as Item Enhancers, Aeos Coins and Tickets, as well as Fashion items for your trainer. 

What you really want are the Premium Holoware and Holowear Tickets. Right now, the only way to unlock the Pilot Style Holoware for Talonflame is by winning it in an Energy Reward drop. Good luck on getting one! With a 0.5% offering rate, you will need it. 

If you got 30 Aeos Energy every game, you would need to play over 670 games to get 200 chances at an Energy Reward. (.5% offering rate) 670 games would be about 112 hours of nonstop winning games. Even then, there is no guarantee you would get the Holowear. Not to mention, there is a cap of 1,400 energy per week. That’s over 14 weeks to be able to roll that many times.

Even with Aeos Gems, you can’t directly buy energy. You can buy Energy Tanks. The Extra Energy Tank increases your 1,400 tank by 1,000 for 200 gems. That means you can now get 2,400 energy before the week resets on Monday. Energy Boost Tanks, give you an extra tank that can be drained simultaneously for energy. 

Let’s say you play a game and you win 30 Aeos energy from your base tank of 1,400. That takes you to 1,370 energy available left this week. You then buy an Extra Energy Tank, increasing that total to 2,370 energy. In your next game you get 30 Aeos Energy, bringing the amount left in the tank to 2,340. 

This time, you decide to buy an Energy Boost tank 4x. You now have one Energy Tank with 2,340 energy and a separate tank with 1,000 boosted at a 4x rate. When you play your next game, you will get the normal 30, but you will also get another 4x that amount, 120 boosted energy. 

The normal 30 gets deducted from your main energy tank, bringing it to 2,310 and your boosted energy tank goes down by 120, making it 880. 

So you can pay money to get more energy per week and to get that energy faster. However, you can’t directly buy the Energy Rewards. You would still have to play the game. Similar to the Battle Pass, gaining more energy doesn’t give a tactictle advantage against other players. But the Energy Rewards do include Item Enhancers, which can give an advantage.

Is Pokemon Unite Pay-To-Win?

Yes, it is. There are a few elements that give advantages to those that pay money, to others that don’t. Many may argue that most of these fall in the category of Pay-To-Progress. But because Pokemon Unite gates or caps many of these rewards weekly, those that play for free can’t simply grind out to catch up.

P2W Quick Chart

Aeos Gem Uses In Game Advantage?
Pokemon Licenses Slight Advantage
Holowear No Advantage
Aeos Tickets / Item Enhancers Great Advantage
Battle Pass Rewards Some Advantage
Energy Rewards Some Advantage

Several games are successful relying only on cosmetic items for monetization like Path of Exile. Other MOBA games like League of Legends, do offer some slight advantages from real-world currency purchases. This could be a larger champion pool or a battle pass system, they do not give any strict bonuses to the power of your character. 

Despite Pokemon Unite being Pay-To-Win the game is still worth playing. A good F2P player can still outplay someone who has spent money. The advantages given don’t create too much of a barrier. Plus the game has led to some incredible memes.

We understand that Pokemon Unite needs a monetization model to remain Free-To-Play. Let us know if you think the current model is the best, or if you have an idea for something better?

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